Harry McWatters. (Photo submitted)

Spill that Wine: B.C. winemakers owe debt of gratitude to McWatters

“Without VQA the world wouldn’t know we made wine here at all.”

The sky is falling!

It was the early eighties. Talk of freer trade had the wine glass half empty crowd convinced that Canadian wines could never compete with long-established wine regions. They were last seen scurrying about in search of an Eddy’s match to set their hair ablaze.

Meanwhile, those of a more positive ilk including the legendary winemaker Harry McWatters seized the day and the prospect of growing the B.C. wine business. Harry among others can be credited with founding the B.C. Wine Institute and Vintners Quality Alliance (VQA).

The latter mandating origin and quality standards for wines bearing the Wines of British Columbia VQA label. In Harry’s words, “Whatever people think of VQA, I firmly believe we would not have built a B.C. wine industry without it. Today 96 per cent of B.C. wines are VQA and without it the world wouldn’t know we made wine here at all.”

Much has been written about Harry McWatters before and after his untimely death this past July, but I must add that B.C. winemakers and wine drinkers for that matter owe a debt of gratitude to him.

Involved in B.C. wineries since the 1980s, Harry McWatters founded some well-known Okanagan wineries before un-retiring in May of 2008 to found Encore Cellars and Time Wines, now located in the historic Penticton Theatre building. In 2011 he released his namesake The McWatters Collection 2007.

READ MORE: Spill that Wine: B.C. wineries growing up gracefully

With the remarkable growth the 1990s saw in both the number of vineyards in British Columbia and the quality of plantings, came the recognition of the varying regions and sub-regions, the affect of terroir on varietals and ultimately the finished wines. Included in those very successful plantings are the “noble” varietals Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Malbec, Merlot, Petit Verdot, of which three are needed to make a red Meritage (Bordeaux) blend.

White Meritage wines must be a blend of at least two of three specific white varieties – Sauvignon Blanc, Semillon or Muscadelle du Bordelais and while rare, are some of the most elegant and exquisite white wines. These wines grow more complex with age, superb on their own or a perfect accompaniment to seafood and poultry. Both Meritage styles can be found under the Time Wine, Harry McWatters Collection labels at The Wines of British Columbia VQA outlets.

Thus, despite the consternation of the before mentioned mob, the universe is intact, the stars shine brightly in the Okanagan sky and the VQA Wines of British Columbia wines are doing just fine.

Are you looking for an accompaniment to your creamy fall vegetable soups or a smoky brussels sprout recipe? Choose a Chardonnay or Riesling from the Time, McWatters collection at your VQA Wines of British Columbia.

Chris Herbert lives in Parksville Qualicum Beach and works as your wine representative at the VQA Wines of British Columbia outlet at Save-On-Foods. He can be contacted at spillthatvino@gmail.com.

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